The Knights (17-10, 3-1) lost to Conference USA rival Southern Miss (10-15, 2-2) on Thursday night, 4-1. Headed into the game UCF was undefeated within the conference after sweeping UAB this past weekend.
Knights’ pitcher Ben Lively pitched a strong outing until an injury and staggering pitch count forced him out early in the eighth inning. Lively had pitched 7.1 innings while striking out four before exiting, and was changed with both the loss and two unearned runs.
“In my mind Ben was the highlight of the night,” said UCF Coach Terry Rooney when UCF Athletics caught up with him after the game. “He did what he’s been doing all year,” Rooney said. “He gave us a chance to win.” Coach Rooney went on to say that Lively is not just a great player but a great competitor
“Our team needs to show more of the same competitiveness and fire that Ben Lively pitches with. If we can figure that out then we’re gonna be okay,” Rooney said.
JoMarcos Woods led off for the Knights and managed to score UCF’s only run after reaching on an error in the first. Third baseman Chris Taladay brought Woods home with an RBI double ripped down the right field line.
The Knights defense held strong against the Eagles until the top of the fourth when USM’s Blake Brown made it to first on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored the first run for USM. A throwing error to first base allowed Brown to reach home, bringing the game even at 1.
Lively took a hard shot off the leg from USM’s Isaac Rodriguez in the eighth, who made it up to first because of the errant bounce the ball took. Lively recovered quickly, but was in clear pain and was removed after giving up a single to the next batter he faced, putting runners on first and second. Zac Favre relieved Lively and allowed one runner to score before ending the inning.
The heat was turned up on the Knights in the ninth as they entered the top of the inning with a one run deficit, down 2-1. Favre was almost able to close out the inning with the game still close, recording two outs while only allowing one runner to reach base.
But after allowing USM’s Travis Creel to advance to second on a wild pitch, Favre walked the Eagle’s Connor Barron and hit Isaac Rodriguez to load the bases, quickly spelling the end of his night.
Jimmy Reed was chosen to relieve Favre, but walked in two runs and was pulled before recording an out. Danny Davis retired the first batter he saw to end the ninth.
UCF was unable to put anything together in the bottom of the inning, ending the game at a 4-1 loss.
This is just the first of three games that UCF will host Southern Mississippi. There will be another game Friday at 6:30 p.m. and an additional game Saturday at 12:30 p.m.